Who Is Liable for an Icy Parking Lot Slip and Fall?
New York State Slip and Fall Injury Attorneys
New York winters can be especially long and brutal. If you’re injured in a slip-and-fall caused by icy, snowy conditions in a parking lot that hasn’t been properly maintained during winter weather, you need to know your rights.
It’s not unusual for New York residents, tourists, and visitors to slip and fall on icy, snowy parking lots during the winter. If you slip and fall while walking to or from your car in a parking lot, or on a sidewalk at a shopping center or mall, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Reasonable Duty of Care and Liability in Schenectady
Property owners and property maintenance staff in New York have a reasonable duty of care to make sure that premises are safe, especially when those premises are open to the public. In the harsh New York winter, this means that property owners and maintenance staff have an obligation to keep parking lots and sidewalks clear of ice and snow so that members of the public can traverse them safely. If the property owner or maintenance staff fails to keep sidewalks and parking lots clear and safe, they can be considered negligent in their duty of care.
While property owners aren’t obligated to remove every trace of ice and snow, they are required to put in enough effort that reasonable care can be said to have been exercised. This means they’re required to keep their property clear of snow and ice to the extent that a reasonable person would feel that all efforts have been made to keep the property safe. Even if snow and ice have been removed or treated, the owner still has a responsibility to make sure that these efforts have resulted in safe conditions.
The bottom line is that liability can result if the property is in an unsafe condition, even if the owner has made efforts to clear snow and ice.
Liability When Duty of Care Is Neglected
If it snows and a property owner doesn’t clear away the snow and ice from his or her parking lot, he or she could be held liable for your injuries if you slip and fall in the unmaintained parking lot. But that’s not the only way that property owners can be negligent in fulfilling their duty of care.
Let’s say, for example, that snow on an awning melts in the sun and drips onto the parking lot or sidewalk below, where it freezes, the owner of the property could be found to be negligent if someone slips on that ice, falls, and sustains an injury. This is true even if the owner of that property has made previous efforts to clear snow and ice.
Under New York state laws, a property owner doesn’t necessarily need to have been made aware of a dangerous condition on the property in order to be held liable. In Figueroa v. Lazarus Burman Associates, the plaintiff sustained injuries due to a slip-and-fall in an icy parking lot, and the defendant was found to have made insufficient efforts to clear snow from the property in question. While the defendant had made some efforts to clear snow and ice, the court found that the lot was still negligently cleared, because the defendant allowed unsafe conditions to remain.
The court further ruled that it wasn’t necessary for the defendant to have received notice of the dangerous conditions beforehand in order to be held liable, since the defendant had contributed to the creation of those dangerous conditions when they failed to exercise their reasonable duty of care in clearing the lot.
However, in order for a property owner to be held liable for dangerous conditions in an icy, snowy parking lot, he must be able to reasonably foresee that the dangerous conditions represent a threat to the public. For example, if you were to enter an icy, snowy commercial parking lot very late at night or very early in the morning, outside of business hours, you may not be able to hold the property owners liable for a slip-and-fall injury. The court might find that those owners could not have reasonably foreseen your presence on the property at such a time, and therefore, they didn’t have a reasonable duty of care to create safe conditions on the property.
Another circumstance under which a property owner might not be held liable for slip-and-fall injuries in a parking lot or other property would be when the snow is actually still falling. New York property liability laws typically use the storm in progress doctrine, which holds that property owners are not liable for unsafe conditions that occur while a storm is still in progress. Any unsafe or slippery conditions that come about due to a storm in progress are not the property owner’s responsibility; she has a reasonable duty of care to restore the property to a safe condition within a reasonable amount of time after the storm has come to an end.
How long does the property owner have to clear the snow and ice away after the storm has ended? That’s usually up to a jury, although previous court decisions have found that property owners are not liable for injuries that occur on their properties during lulls in a storm, or within 45 minutes after the end of a storm.
Experienced New York Personal Injury Attorneys
If you’ve been injured in a slip-and-fall in New York due to ice and snow in a parking lot, you may be entitled to damages. Our personal injury attorneys can tell you whether or not you have a case, and if you are entitled to compensation for your injuries.